As we age, maintaining balance is important to avoid and prevent falls. Balance is the body’s ability to control our body in different positions. Like other exercise or skills, we can improve balance thru daily practice.
As a physical therapist, I often integrate elements of yoga into treatment plans because of the balance and strength benefits these poses provide. If possible, try to attend a yoga class with a certified instructor who can help you with the placement of hands and feet before trying poses for the first time. There are typically specific classes for seniors that focus more on balance and strength.
Tree pose, standing pose and warrior pose are incredibly effective yoga postures to build, improve and maintain balance. Try to incorporate these poses into your daily routine.
- Start in standing position, shift your weight onto one leg.
- Place the opposite foot at calf level or on the inner thigh (never on the knee joint).
- Keep your ankle, hip and knee in line with the leg you’re standing on. Keep hips level.
- Slowly “grow your tree” by raising your arms above your head.
- Engage your core.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds or longer.
For a greater challenge, you can look up towards the ceiling or close your eyes. Once you complete the pose on one leg, switch to the other leg. The longer you hold the pose, the more balance is challenged.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
- Ground all 4 corners of your feet into the floor.
- Draw your navel up and in towards your spine.
- Tilt your tailbone towards the floor.
- Draw your shoulders down and away from your ears.
- Pull your shoulders back towards the wall.
- Reach the crown of your head towards the ceiling.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds, repeat.
Basic Warrior Pose
- Stand with feet hip-distance apart and arms at your sides.
- Exhale as you step your feet wide, about 3 to 4 feet apart.
- Turn your right foot out 90 degrees, so your toes are pointing to the top of the mat. Your left foot should be turned inwards (about 45-degrees).
- Align your front heel and back foot. Keep your pelvis turned toward the front of your mat.
- Try to press your weight through your feet evenly.
- Exhale as you bend your right knee over your right ankle. Your shin should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Arm options: Reach your arms and fingers up, continuing to reach and lengthen. Another option is to keep your arms parallel or just keep palms together. Choose the arm option that is most comfortable.
- Push the top of your head towards the ceiling and lift your gaze. Pull your shoulder blades backward, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears.
- Push down thru the outer edge of your back foot.
- Hold and breathe. To release, exhale and lower hands to the floor.
- Switch legs and repeat.
Remember to be kind to yourself when practicing yoga and listen to your body. With time the poses will become easier and the benefits greater.
Jenni Freie, PT, DPT, OCS is a physical therapist with OrthoCarolina Pineville.
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April 17, 2017